The most careful arrangements for a careful fiction: a short history of Asia pictures
Abstract Throughout the Eisenhower administration, the United States National Security Council habitually advised the American President of the ‘careful fiction’ of Hong Kong’s neutrality in the Cold War. This careful fiction, maintained by the British colonial government, prevented overt propaganda efforts by both the U.S. and China in the struggle over the spread of Communist ideology. Various covert propaganda efforts were being organized by the Central Intelligence Agency across the world in the battle against Communism, including the indirect funding of the Committee for Free Asia, later renamed as The Asia Foundation, originally based in San Francisco. In 1952, the Committee for Free Asia accepted a proposal from a journalist named Chang Kuo-sin to begin funding a diverse enterprise in Hong Kong to be made up of the Asia Press, the Asia Pictorial, and Asia Pictures. Asia Pictures would make nine feature-length films throughout its brief history in the 1950s, winning a number of festival awards and featuring major established stars and directors as well as emerging stars in the Hong Kong film industry. The essay details the relationship between The Asia Foundation and Asia Pictures as they attempt to carefully produce and distribute a popular screen fiction in the Cold War struggle for the hearts and minds of filmgoers in East and Southeast Asia.
Keywords: Hong Kong Cinema, Cold War, Asia Pictures
Charles Leary is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. He received his doctoral degree in Cinema Studies from New York University, and he is currently writing a book on the Cold War politics of Hong Kong film culture. Research for this article was made possible by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.